It's hard to believe I am writing this Blog post in Auckland, New Zealand.
If you would have told me ten years ago that I would be here, on my own, travelling around the North Island I would have said you were nuts!
My trip here is two fold. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, I am keeping a promise I made in 2016 while studying in Reggio-Emilia, Italy.
Just before my 40th birthday, I took a 9 hour flight to Bologna, Italy and then made my way by taxi to a little town called Reggio-Emilia. I had never flown anywhere by myself, let alone to another country! Feeling very brave, I decided that this was something I was ready to do!
I arrived in the incredibly gorgeous Posta Hotel at 2 am. The door man woke up to my buzzer and showed me to my room. I was exhausted from my travels, but I was too excited to sleep. I was in ITALY! I remembered faintly the host telling me that breakfast was 7 am. I looked at my clock, realizing I had only a few short hours before I would need to get to breakfast and I was starving!! I must have dozed off, when I woke to the clanking of breakfast plates and peoples voices outside my door. I felt paralyzed with hunger and exhausted with jet lag. But I got up, and headed to breakfast.
In the small banquet room were many women busily gathering their breakfast at the large table spread with the most incredible foods. Breads, pastries, fruits, yogurts, chocolates, it was gorgeous. There were about 6 tables and most of them were occupied. I found myself a place, and headed to the main table to get some toast. In Italy, the toaster is more like a mini-oven. You put your bread in the front, and watch it to turn brown. I watched another lady try it first, and after catching on to the trick, I tried it myself.
A Kiwi lady started up conversation with me while I was watching my bread very intensely as for it not to burn. She asked me where I was from and which group I was with. I told her I traveled by myself, and I didn't know if there were any other Canadians here as I just arrived hours before.
"Oh my god! Okay, well now you're with us!".
Denise literally grabbed my arm and took me to sit down at her table. There she introduced me to Prue Crarer, Tasha Rawari, Cathy Young, and another Mauri lady who's name had escaped me.
Well, to make a long story short, she did take care of me, and I did latch on to those Kiwi ladies and I had the most incredible journey of my life! After our week long study tour, with hours and hours of lectures, center visits, wine tours, bicycle rides, trains to Venice, late dinners, yummy Proseccos, humbling moments, and sad good byes we promised to keep in touch and I promised to visit them in New Zealand.
We all promised to return in 2018 to Reggio, but Prue and I were the only ones who could make it happen. In May, 2018, Denise came to Canada , and stayed with me for a week or so while her husband and her explored the Butchard Gardens and other local sites. So here I am, in February 2019, IN NEW ZEALAND!
It has been an incredible week so far. Denise arranged for me to visit centres right away. I have seen 4 Reggio-inspired centres so far and I will visit 9 in total.
4 Kids & Whanau (Whanau means family) and is pronounced "Fah-No". I will share a little about the first centre, now.
We met Sam at this centre today. Sam and I also met In Reggio-Emilia so there were lots of hugs! (Denise, Sam and I rode the Gondolas in Venice together from the 2016 tour, so we had lots to talk about)
This centre is attached to a church. The beautiful indoor /outdoor space provides care to under twos, and over threes.(multi-age) They have a"rolling tea" which is basically like our open snack time, however they have a cook making 4 meals a day. Eight children can sit and help themselves to the food at their own time. Others have to wait their turn for a seat.
The teachers work on "Projects" which run for about 3 months in length. They use photography and narration to document their work. There is lots of documentation on the walls, and evidence of a very rich program.The teachers have left "traces" of the children's work everywhere. The educators are on the floor with the babies, and the babies are (cool) dressed in diapers and very little clothing, deliciously dirty and very engaged. They are all very curious about me.
I was able to take some photos, which I will have to add when I return to Canada.(stand by) This program clearly embraces the Maouri culture beautifully in all areas of their centre. I was able to observe the written language on their walls, and in the children's work. Before they eat, they sing a beautiful Maori prayer. I was immediately in love with the feeling of unity and inclusion in this centre.
At lunch, Sam's mom Glenda joined Denise, Sam and I, and I was able to ask more questions about the program.
It was interesting to note that there is no Immunization policy. They are heavily enrolled by children from all over the world who come as refugees and often English as their second language.( and for most, they have no English language at all) The staff as well have the option to be immunized or not. It's their choice.
I have attached some photos of this gorgeous centre. I am very interested in their documentation and how the educators weave in the Te Whariki (ECE curriculum). The Te Whariki (pronounced Te Far-IKI) means a woven mat for all to stand on. The Te Whariki weaves in 4 principles and 5 strands.
4 Principles: Empowerment, Holistic Development, Family & Community,and Relationships.
5 Strands: Well being, Belonging, Contribution, Communication and Exploration.
"Together these principles and strands give expression to the vision for children that is the heart of the Te Whariki."
It is just now, that this journey really begins. With this new document in hand, my notes, my NZ Whanau, many resources, photos, and "Google", I am ready to learn.